Preparations for the 2023 general election have begun in earnest with a directive yesterday by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to its Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to commence the inventory of all election materials.

The commission also said it would review its deliberations with stakeholders on the expansion of polling units.

The directive was aimed at determining material shortfalls and to take adequate steps to ensure adequacy and availability of such materials for the 2023 general election.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at a meeting yesterday in Abuja with the RECs, gave those yet to submit their reports till end of this week to do so.

He said: “As we continue to plan for the next general election, the RECs have been directed to compile and submit an inventory of all election materials in order to determine shortfalls and take early steps to ensure their adequacy and availability.

“Only a few states are still outstanding. I wish to remind the states that are yet to make their submissions to do so by the end of this week. This will enable us to address some of the logistics issues that have become a recurring decimal in the conduct of elections in the past. The 2023 general election must be different from all previous elections in terms of our preparations and readiness.”

Yakubu affirmed the commitment of the commission to deepening the culture of preparation for credible elections.

“As you are also aware, the commission is committed to deepening the culture of planning for elections. The current five-year plan covering the period 2017-2021 expires this year.

For this reason, a committee involving the participation of some Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) was inaugurated a few weeks ago to review the Strategic Plan (SP) and the Strategic Programme of Action (SPA) to cover the next cycle of five years from 2022-2026,” he added.

The INEC boss said the committee was making progress, adding that its report should be submitted by the end of this month to enable the commission engage stakeholders for its validation and subsequent implementation.

“I want to assure Nigerians that this will be accomplished long before the expiry of the current plan at the end of this year,” Yakubu stated.

Speaking on the outcome of the deliberations with stakeholders on the planned expansion of the polling centres nationwide, Yakubu said the expansion would enable voters to know where to register as voter’s registration is expected to commence soon.

He recalled that the expansion of voters’ access to polling units and the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) were among the issues discussed at INEC’s last meeting held over one month ago.

“Today, we will, among other issues, review the engagements with stakeholders on the proposed expansion of voters’ access to polling units so far as well as our preparations for the commencement of the Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR). The two activities are inter-related,” he said.

According to him, INEC’s plan is to conclude the ongoing consultations and the work on the polling units so that the new locations will be made public for eligible registrants to choose where they wish to register and vote on the election day.

Yakubu said the expansion of the polling centres and the registration of voters would be simultaneous, so that those who wish to replace their lost or damaged Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), as well as those already registered but who may wish to apply for transfer of their registration from one location to another, will be able to do so as provided by law.

The INEC chairman commended the RECs as well as the staff of the commission for ensuring that the two elections conducted this year continue to meet the standards for credible elections.

He said the by-elections conducted in Magama/Rijau Federal Constituency and the Kafin Hausa State Constituency bye-election in Niger and Jigawa States, respectively were commendable as they were hitch-free and transparent.

He urged INEC officials to repeat such exemplary conducts in forthcoming Ekiti East State Constituency 1 by-election scheduled for March 20, to be followed a week later by the Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency by-election in Abia State holding on March 27, 2021.

Similarly, the INEC chairman said with the recent declaration of vacancy by the Delta State House of Assembly, he assured the people of Isoko North State Constituency that the timetable for the by-election to fill the vacancy in the state House of Assembly will be released before the end of this week.